Marc Garneau C.I. welcomed three new administrators to the school this year: Mr. Di Felice, Mr. Haid, and Ms. Papadopoulos. For this edition, Bridget Huh interviewed vice principal Mr. Haid.
Q: How does Garneau compare to the other schools you’ve taught at?
A: Garneau is large. It’s diverse in what programming it offers. The physical building itself is also large, so it’s quite different than the junior high I was a VP at, and it’s quite different from Leaside HS, which is where I was before I came here. Leaside was about a thousand students and there were two VPs. Garneau is about double the size. From the perspective of programming, there are programs offered here that Leaside didn’t offer, which I missed when I was at Leaside, and I’m glad to be in a school that has ESL support. I’m glad to be in a school with diverse special education programs. I’m really proud of the TOPS program, I’m also equally proud of the Garneau program. The staff here is also large. I think we are the second largest school by population but the largest by teaching staff. The teaching staff here is excellent, the support staff, the caretakers, the office staff, the aids, the social worker, child youth worker, everyone really works collaboratively and I really do believe that everyone’s here for the betterment of students.
Q: As opposed to…
A: Well, as opposed to just coming and not caring. Just coming for a paycheck. I think people really do care about students. And they care about making connections with students. If I ask staff what they like about Garneau, the answer is often “I come here because of the kids,” or “I like to be here because of the kids,” or “I really enjoy working with the students.” That’s not to say that that’s always an easy task, that it’s always an easy job, but I think the students here really appreciate what their teachers do for them.
Q: Yeah, I really like that about Garneau. I love the teachers here. Did you always want to work in education as a teacher?
A: Yes, I did. As a child, I always really liked to tell people what to do [laughs] so as a bossy person, it was natural to become a teacher, because you’re always telling people what they should do based upon your frame of reference.
I didn’t always envision teaching in a school necessarily, but I really enjoy working with young people—anyone, for that matter—and imparting what I know to them, but I also understand that teaching is a reciprocal action. I know that when I share what I know with others, that they’re going to share with me what they know. And that’s the beauty of the interaction of teaching.
One of my fondest memories was teaching a class of nine boys with very different approaches to school, they had different needs. They were all on the autism spectrum, and I was fortunate to teach them English for four years. And I learned more from them than they ever learned from me. I think of them all the time, I really do. I learned that everyone is reachable. I learned that no matter how prepared I was, no matter how wonderful a teacher I might have thought I was, I always had new things to learn. And it was a real great honour to teach those kids.
Q: What are your teachables?
A: I applied to the faculty at UofT with history and social sciences, and I received a phone call from the registrar, and she said I noticed you’ve indicated that history and social sciences are your teachables. Would you consider switching to English, to do an English/history program? And I said I’m assuming that because you’re calling me, if I said yes, there would be a placement for me at the faculty? And I laugh at this all the time. I’ve since met this woman and we’ve become colleagues. She said well, I can’t say that over the phone, but if you could see me you would know that I was nodding yes. So my teachables are English and history.
I have taught almost every English course there is, and I’ve taught almost every history course there is. I’ve taught most of the humanities courses as well. I was the curriculum leader of the history department at Sir John A. MacDonald for a number of years, and we had a department of 86 sections. We had a very robust and active department. It was a great group of educators, a very dynamic group of teachers who loved the subject.
I had the pleasure of teaching philosophy, and I adored it. I also loved teaching ENG4U, I loved teaching literature studies, I loved teaching media studies, anything I taught I loved.
Q: Have you ever taught a writer’s craft class?
A: Actually, I love to write, but I’m not the most creative person. And I also think it’s a challenging discipline because you have to judge someone else’s creative output. So I really respect people who teach courses that evaluate very subjective student work.
Q: What were your favourite courses to teach?
A: Philosophy, grade 10 applied history, I loved teaching essentials English to the students in the spec. ed program, I loved teaching ENG4U, I also really enjoyed teaching the literacy course… The most unique course I taught was Managing Personal Resources for a year, which was for students who really did not feel engaged in the school for many reasons. And it certainly wasn’t because they didn’t have abilities. they were very talented young people. They just weren’t having a good experience in high school. So it was a really humbling experience for me because I was the one that had to figure out how to get them reconnected in school. It took a while, but I was able to build a deep relationship with the students and our team was able to work together to get 16 reluctant learners reengaged. It was wonderful.
Not every story is a successful one—I’m sure there were many students that I didn’t reach despite my efforts, and that’s something that happens.
Q: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to any high school student?
A: Oh, I have a lot of advice I’d give to students. Part of the reason why we give advice is so that we actually hear aloud what we say to others, to remind what we need to do to improve. I think young people hopefully understand that the advice that I give comes from errors that I made. Advice is meant to shelter others from mistakes that the self has made.
I would say that—this is probably going to sound a little bit dark—but I’ve been saying don’t believe that high school is the best time of your life. That’s a myth. It’s not the best time of one’s life. It’s part of one’s life. There should be no best part of someone’s life, there should be constant improvement and betterment from health, happiness, achievement, and wellness perspectives.
I think it’s important that young people are good to each other, and are good to themselves. I think it’s important that young people—and I understand from a neurological perspective why this isn’t the case—slow down and not let things escalate to a point where there’s no going back.
The most unpopular piece of advice I would give is to get rid of your phones. They’re destroying civility. They really are. We’re losing our ability to connect with other humans. I really love Atwood because she is probably the most consistent prophet (as someone who sees what might happen in the future) and I think that there is a real potential that there will be a time (I hope it doesn’t happen) that we will have to depend on one another again, and not technology. It’s better for us to not forget how to survive by working collaboratively. So if you’re reading this, hopefully you’re not reading it on your cellphone. And if you are, be sure that the person beside you has been said hello or good morning or good afternoon to before you both return to your screens.
Q: Who were your favourite philosophers/
A: So the way I taught philosophy was quite chronological. It began with the ancient philosophers, but we also looked at those in the near East and northern Africa and what would become modern day Europe. As we moved forward, the students really began to see that great thinking builds on great thinking, and all societies improve and develop because they are able to recognize the importance of the past and then better the future. The societies that fail are the ones that don’t reflect or try to fix what’s problematic. As for my favourite philosopher, I really enjoy Descartes. I think his work is very important. I love political philosophy. I loved David Hume’s work, you know, empirical philosophy, I love more modern examinations of power and gender. My favourite twentieth century philosopher would be Michel Foucault. Kierkegaard is interesting—I don’t know if I would agree with him, but he’s certainly interesting.
Q: What books can you recommend? What are your favourite novels?
A: I loved Not Wanted on the Voyage by Timothy Findley, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, The Handmaid’s Tale by Atwood. I liked the recent one, The Testaments. I didn’t love it. I loved a novel called Annabel, I loved All the Light We Cannot See, which was very powerful. I loved Washington Black by Esi Edugyan—it’s just incredible. I didn’t think I would like it, but it’s magical. She writes so beautifully. I love everything that Rohinton Mistry has written. They’re just sublime. Oh and I do want to add that I really adored Harry Potter, because I think it was written with the idea that reading is fundamental to humanity, and that Rowling gave of herself so that others could enjoy and become better.
Q: If you were to write a novel, what would it look like?
A: I don’t think I have the necessary intelligence or modesty or perseverance to write a novel. I don’t think I have the requisite amount of discipline either. I think you have to be a humble person to be able to leave the self and create other characters, and I don’t know if I can do that. I think you also have to know the self. Maybe writing is a way for authors to explore the self through the creation of other creatures.
Q: What do you do outside of school? What are your hobbies?
A: I play tennis. I really love to cook. You could describe my appearance as “he looks like he’s well-fed.” I love to read. I love watching British situation comedies. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and my cats. I love to travel.
Q: Oh, where have you been?
A: I’ve been very lucky, I’ve been to many places. I’ve been throughout Canada and the US, most nations in Europe, I’ve been to Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, India, Pakistan, Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong, China, Lebanon, Syria. This Christmas I’m going to Vietnam, and this summer I’m going to South Africa. I’ve been throughout Central America and the Caribbean, I’ve been to Iceland, which was a magical journey. These trips occurred in different times—that’s not to say I’m a time traveler, I mean geopolitical realities often affect one’s ability to visit another land. But I do think the world is a place that’s meant to be explored and that humans are fascinating creatures.
Q: Do you listen to a lot of music?
A: Yes, I do like music.
Q: Who were your favourite bands from the 80s?
A: I like how you assume they’re from the 80s. They’re probably from the 80s, yeah. I like Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, U2, a British synth pop group called Erasure. I probably like most kinds of music.